I have, without a doubt, had a phenomenal time this week at the National Student Conference of the NACCM (who, incidentally, are changing their national name, but I’ll wait and let them fill everybody in on that). They have welcomed me, taught me, and even let me share what I’ve learned. (It’s so encouraging to know that these last two years really have produced something that can help my fellow college ministers.)
Before the conference ends this morning, I figured it might be a good time to make a plea for you to consider prioritizing college minister conferences for your own development as a college minister. I don’t simply mean student conferences, where your students are impacted and you’re along for the ride. I mean conferences – whether students also attend or not – that have a strong aspect of college minister connection and training.
I think I’ve now attended over twenty such conferences in a span of only 9 years. So if anybody was gonna be sick of them… But I can not think of a better way to be immersed – explicitly and implicitly – into college ministry excellence. So I’ll keep right on attending.
Why do they help in a way perhaps nothing else can?
Explicitly: Conference attendees have the option of picking relevant breakout sessions, chatting one-on-one with fellow college ministers, and hearing from speakers chosen for their know-how in our profession. Even organic opportunities may arise throughout a conference, when like-minded ministers gather in the hallways or at Denny’s and trade know-how. Wisdom at many of these conferences comes hard and fast.
This is the obvious (explicit) opportunity presented by conferences, and that alone is reason to attend.
Implicitly: But college ministry conferences provide a sneakier sort of training, too – an implicit preparation that might even “make you a college minister” in a more fundamental sense than all that explicit training does. Because conferences surround us with “collegeministryness,” so a sort of osmosis occurs in which we come to understand college ministry far better than reading it in a book or trading thoughts in emails.
It’s around so many others that questions are answered that we didn’t even know to ask. We find out – even indirectly – that there might be dozens of scenarios quite unlike our own, college ministers who view things or run things quite differently, or topics and trends that weren’t even on our radar. And something particularly special happens as we breathe the same air as college ministry lifers and other experts, whose experience has taught them in ways only experience can… and yet, while that remains true, some portion somehow rubs off on us just the same.
If you’ve never attended a college ministers’ conference, I urge you to find one. Inside your denomination/group/circles/region or with another group entirely. Organized for members of your “branch” (campus-based, church-based, Christian-college) or for a different branch altogether. I promise, if you go in with the right mindset, you can learn from others – any others – in our field.
(And those who organize, plan, lead, teach at, and support these conferences… thank you.)
Written from University of Southern Indiana
Road Trip #12 update (Day 5)
yesterday’s T-shirt: the Bulldog tribe of Gonzaga
I think today’s going to be a catch-up day, then we’ll see what’s next. Please keep praying for that, and I’ll keep you posted!